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Slides taking toll on road budget

A 2012 storm caused the Chetco River to rise high enough to undermine the slope below North Bank Chetco River Road. The cost to stabilize the slope will drain the city’s road repair budget.

The impacts of the November 2012 storm and flood just won’t quit.

The cost to repair two landslides in Brookings is likely to consume the city’s entire annual revenue for street repairs and resurfacing, City Manager Gary Milliman reported earlier this week.

At its July 28 meeting, the city council decided to proceed with geologic testing and plan preparation for the repairs on North Bank Chetco River Road and Marine Drive.

“Slip-outs at both of these locations are threatening the road, and if we don’t take action to stabilize them now, the roads could be lost this winter,” Milliman said. “This will result in an even costlier repair and disruption to traffic.” 

 The damage along North Bank Chetco River Road is not readily visible to motorists, but it is substantial, Milliman said, adding that a portion of the guardrail there is suspended in the air.

The flood followed a storm that dumped 8 inches of rain over one weekend in Southern Oregon, causing sinkholes and slides, flooding houses, breaking water mains and other damage totalling millions of dollars. Because Curry County was the only one in Oregon to be affected, it did not qualify for federal assistance and has had to foot the bill itself.

Many others learned their insurance carriers wouldn’t reimburse them for losses as the storm and flood were considered “acts of God.”

Public Works Director Loree Pryce indicated it will cost about $200,000 to repair both sites, and that work could involve installing sheet piling or deep-slope stabilization nails.

“We won’t really know until the investigation by a geotechnical engineer is completed,” she said.

Paying for it will delay other road construction projects in town until next year.

Usually, System Replacement Fees (SRFs), collected in water and sewer utility bills, pay for such repairs. The city receives $131,000 annually from SRFs and another $80,000 a year from the state.

“We were planning to use these funds for resurfacing locations like Hassett Street between Pioneer and Old County Road,” Pryce said. “Those projects will likely need to be delayed for at least another year.”

One segment of North Bank Chetco River Road within the city limits does not directly serve any city resident or business.

Milliman said he has contacted Curry County Roadmaster Doug Robinson to see if the county can share in the cost of the repairs using some of its reserve road funds.

The city council plans to put a question to voters on next May’s ballot asking voters to implement a 3-cent fuel tax on gasoline and eliminate the SRFs.

“This demonstrates the need to secure additional funding for our street improvement program,” said Council Kelly McClain, “and is why I supported placing a fuel tax measure on the ballot. We need to raise about $300,000 annually to address street improvement needs over the next 10 years. The fuel tax will likely generate this amount of funding, we can eliminate the SRF, and non-city residents who use these streets will contribute to the cost.”

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